WikiLearn/Out of beta

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

WikiLearn, the free online learning platform created by the Community Development team at the Wikimedia Foundation, has come out of its beta testing period. It also has a major new feature: course content translation.


Based on expressed needs by Wikimedia volunteers, and on the Invest in Skills and Leadership Development initiative of the Movement Strategy Recommendations, the Community Development team of the Wikimedia Foundation stewarded the development of an online learning platform, based on the free-software Open edX product, to serve the entire Wikimedia movement.

The platform has been in beta for the past year or so, and several courses have been run on it. We are now ready to declare the platform overall out of beta and ready for more courses to be developed and deployed.

Course content translation[edit]

Excellent courses can be authored in any language, and we can all learn from our peers and colleagues around the world. It was important to us that the platform not only support creating content in any language (which Open edX supports out of the box) but also allow translating whole courses from one language to another. We also did not want to assume a default translation direction (e.g. from English to other languages). In other words, we wanted any course, in any language, to be translatable into any other language.

Translation for course content was not an existing feature in Open edX, so we were faced with two main options: either to develop a full-featured translation infrastructure, of the level of sophistication Wikimedians have come to expect, in Open edX itself, or to come up with a way to rely on our existing translation system on Meta.

After much consideration, we chose the second approach: we commissioned the development of a mechanism in Open edX that "marks" a course for translation into a given language, which then exports the entire course contents (in small units), including video subtitles, to Meta, to be translated with the familiar translation interface on Meta, and to then be automatically pulled back into the WikiLearn platform, where the course author can review and accept translations. (The review step is a simple defense against automatically applying vandalized translations to ongoing courses.)

This feature itself is brand-new, and still is in beta, as we are only beginning to test it. One design limitation it has is that only course authors (or WikiLearn site admins) can initiate the translation of a particular course into a particular language. This means that if you see a course you would like to translate, and isn't already being translated, you have to contact the course author or the WikiLearn team to ask that the course be made translatable into your language. We hope this would be a trivial technical step, and if it turns out to be too cumbersome, we will consider automating or semi-automating it, budget permitting.

What does this mean right now?[edit]

First, it means the platform is ready for more learners to take the courses already available. You can browse the course catalog and enroll in courses, logging in using your Wikimedia account (via OAuth, no password necessary).

Secondly, it means the platform is ready for more courses to be developed and deployed on it. If you are interested in developing training curriculum on some topic (from a short module to a complete course), you are welcome to get in touch with the WikiLearn team to discuss your plan, outline the curriculum and learning goals, and get access to the content-authoring part of the platform ("Studio"). The platform welcomes any learning and training content relevant to an audience of Wikimedians (as distinct, for example, from elementary school arithmetic or high-school civics). Such content can be technical skills (e.g. "how to do batch uploads to Commons", "Programming bots using PyWikiBot"), social or non-technical skills (e.g. "Introduction to Public Speaking", "How to Write a Press Release", etc.), or wiki-cultural (e.g. "Introduction to the German Wikipedia's Notability Policy").

Thirdly, you can help by translating one of the existing courses into another language. See the available courses and target languages in the translation dashboard on WikiLearn. If you would like to translate a course not yet available for translation, or into a language not yet listed, recruit at least two other volunteers interested in translating that course into that language, and write to the WikiLearn team.

Finally, you can help make the user interface of the Open edX platform itself available in more languages (currently 19 languages are enabled and selectable from the language dropdown on the platform), by contributing translations to the Open edX project on Transifex (not a Wikimedia site).

What next?[edit]

The next major piece of work for developing the WikiLearn platform is defining the platform's governance: being a non-wiki platform, we cannot automatically rely on existing wiki processes, and need to figure out how to share power ('admin' status on the platform) and enforce conduct (including blocking repeat offenders) with trusted volunteers. Right now, the Community Development team members are the only admins on the platform, but we would like this to change as soon as possible, that is, as soon as we come up with definitions and processes.

We would like to develop these governance principles for the WikiLearn platform in conversation with the communities. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about that conversation, which will take place on Meta.


Questions are welcome on the talk page.